Ruto now says he is ready to work with Raila

Friday, March 26th, 2021 00:00 |

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Hillary Mageka and Rawlings Otieno

Deputy President William Ruto and Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) have sent strong signals of a possibility of forging an alliance ahead of next year’s General Election.

In what might turn out to be a dramatic realignment in Kenya’s politics, Ruto and Raila who are sworn arch-rivals, appeared to open windows to each other while being highly dismissive of an emerging alliance of rival political party leaders.

While Ruto who resounded uncharacteristically respectful of Raila, calling him “Baba,” openly said he was ready to work with the opposition leader to “tackle poverty” among Kenyans, the latter’s Orange party indicated it was in the process of forming new alliances “even with our perceived enemies”.

“Knowing that partnerships are an essential part of our politics, the Orange party is working on a broader, better and bolder alliance that will shake the country and shape the politics of the land for years to come,” ODM Secretary General Edward Sifuna said in a press statement.

Yesterday, Ruto ruled out a political partnership with the newly-formed One Kenya Alliance comprising Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, Kanu’s Gideon Moi, Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetangula, which was unveiled yesterday, saying it was made up of “tribal chieftains”.

Fights poverty

“In politics, you must have a plan and I already have one. If there is anybody who wants to join us to fight poverty and other things that ail the country; he or she is welcome even if it is Baba.

If Baba agrees with our manifesto and believes that poverty should be fought from the bottom to the top, we can work together,” Ruto said.

“The individuals we are not ready to work with are the ones championing tribal and regional alliances, which we do not agree with.

They believe in tribalism but Raila and I believe in unity of Kenyans. If Baba comes and says he wants to work with us as the Hustler nation, we will welcome him,” he told Citizen Radio.

The DP, who has been a thorn in Raila’s flesh for a long time, pointed out that the differences between him and the ODM leader were political.

“Some people think I have problems with Raila. I do not. These differences are political.

And there are things I agree with Raila. He is agreed on the need to form national parties and he is facing similar issues (in the opposition) I am facing of regional chieftains,” said Ruto, who also for the first time declared that he was ready to quit the governing Jubilee Party for the United Democratic Alliance whose candidates he has been sponsoring in recent by-elections.

In his hard-hitting statement dismissing the Sacred Alliance, ODM official Sifuna said the party was working on a grand coalition that will define the future of Kenya’s politics.  

According to Sifuna, the Orange party has a record of building coalitions and bridges with perceived enemies and propping up younger and energetic leaders.

“We are working on one again. As a party, we are done with the fading breed of tribal politicians whose singular focus over the years has been on what they can extract from our sweat, and from the country.

In some places we will fight alone. In others, we will fight alongside allies,” said Sifuna.

The refrain by both Ruto and Raila’s party was the fight against poverty and empowerment of the weak in society that has been the mantra of the DP’s Hustler campaign, which he appears keen to sustain as a rallying call for his troops towards next year’s election.

“As an avowed centre-left movement, ODM’s ideals of social democracy and desire to empower the masses and fight poverty hold supreme above all else,” said Sifuna, in a manner that seemed to feed into Ruto’s conditions for possible cooperation.

Ruto, who has fallen out with President Uhuru Kenyatta, appears determined to launch a lone path to the presidency without the blessings of his boss, who has been working with Raila under the Handshake agreement.  

Lately, Raila’s allies in Parliament have been sending mixed signals about the Handshake, sometimes saying they might quit the cooperation after alleging sabotage by powerful civil servants.  

Ruto’s remarks come barely three weeks after Raila’s elder brother, Oburu Oginga, said nothing stops the former Prime Minister from working with the Deputy President in the 2022 State House contest.

This was after rumours surfaced that Raila and Ruto allies could be talking behind the scenes.

Oburu said Raila and Ruto’s differences were political and not personal, and therefore, the two could still work together if circumstances necessitated.

There has also been speculation that President Uhuru’s ultimate choice of a successor could reunite his deputy with Raila. 

If a Ruto-Raila poll deal happens, it would be a reunion for the duo who were members of the ODM top decision making body, the Pentagon, in the run-up to the 2007 elections only to fall out sharply during the Grand Coalition government of retired President Mwai Kibaki where Raila was prime minister.

According to Sifuna, the post Building Bridges Initiative alliance the Orange party was working on will be “fresh, strong, vibrant and packed with men and women who can stand on their own and give birth to a new nation after the referendum”.

Experienced player

“The national political conversation has been awash with speculation of changing allegiances and budding alliances.

Being the biggest and most experienced player on the scene, ODM has been mentioned quite a bit,” said Sifuna, adding that members of the new alliance will have “clear ideological positions” on issues of the day.

Yesterday, Ruto criticised what he said was a growing trend of propping up regional leaders as he celebrated Raila as a nationalist worth emulating.

Without dropping names, the DP said there is a renewed push to back what he termed as “tribal and regional parties” ahead of the 2022 polls.

“ANC and Ford Kenya are being mobilised to be political outfits of the Western region, Wiper is being rallied to control Ukambani politics while the coastal leaders are being pushed by outside forces to form their own political parties,” the seemingly agitated Ruto reckoned.

“These people who are pushing such narratives know very well that when you start the journey of dividing people, you will not know where to stop.”

The DP said though he differed with Raila on some of the constitutional changes proposed through the BBI, there is a chance they would converge ahead of next year’s elections.

“In Bomas I pointed out at least six or seven issues that needed to be rectified to weed political selfishness in constitution-making process,” he said.

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